Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How Labour can oppose and offer hope again - 5 thoughts on what we do as a party

1. Understand change and engage in it

Labour only wins when we contest the national conversation - 1945, 1964, 1997. A country for heroes, the confident sixties and a new optimism for a new millennium. I agreed with that analysis by Jon Cruddas as he crafted the last policy review that shaped the ideas for the manifesto. There was good analysis about how Britain is a more entrepreneurial country, how civic engagement and community pride are important cornerstones in how we can connect with people at an apolitical level again. How technology has changed the way people use services. How power is created and the capacity of communities to take control whenever possible and outside of the formal structures of governance, look at what Adam Swersky has to say. To listen and understand what is going on in everyday lives.

2. Be there

As we discussed at the Stockport Labour Group meeting in the aftermath of the election (I attend as a local party observer, I'm not a councillor), there will be people who will need Labour to fight for them like never before. In the rush to the sunlit uplands of Tory aspirational voters we must remain rooted in looking after the people who turn to us. Case work is going to mount, campaigning is going to be hard, it is important we are there when a Sure Start centre is closed, a hospital is sold off, a train line left to rot. There is a lot in what Owen Jones says about campaigning and hoping.

3. Oppose effectively in parliament

Ed Miliband was an effective opposition leader when it mattered. It's a terrible consolation prize, but with a slender majority the Tories could be under pressure to make all kinds of daft compromises to their right and the DUP that Ken Clarke and other centrist Tories wouldn't stomach. The Tories might look united now in victory, but the fault lines are still there. We're going to have to be strident in the battles ahead.  In this parliament we will have a choice to campaign in a European referendum, defend the union with Scotland and stand up for the NHS and remember the promises and assurances they made in the election campaign.

4. Support a move to a country of nations and regions.

It hurts me to say Northern Powerhouse because it represents grand larceny. George Osborne's audacity of ambition. But it is our future - a federal Britain with a chance to redraft profoundly different needs in cities and counties. A fairer country where we build an alternative to London dominance. We shouldn't and mustn't attack the Devo Manc agenda because we see it as a Tory plot, but embrace it as an opportunity to change the country for the better. Look at what Richard Leese says in the Manchester Evening News today - "no stalling on the devolution agenda."

5. See off the Liberal Democrats 

I heard Neal Lawson of Compass on Newsnight last night talking about reaching beyond Labour, a line he's been peddling since 1987. I didn't buy it then and I don't buy it now. If we have any tactical imperative it isn't to reach out to them as they drown, but let them sink. I have always failed to see the point of them as a party. I admire the old style Liberals, but it is for them to make their own future, if it exists, not us.

Tomorrow: How Labour can win again

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